Way back in 2011, this blog featured a pair of posts about personal branding, the idea of designing and manging your professional, digital self. In Online Presence, a.k.a. You 2.0, Annie reminded us of the importance of being ‘Googleable’ and of our abilities to control the information that employers can potentially find on us. However, based on the comments, the jury was still out in 2011 on how important a professional online presence was in the job hunt.
Later that year, Rebecca’s post, Walking a fine line: You 2.0 vs. well, You, took things a step further. She examined the practice of keeping your public and private lives separate on social media. Are your venues for staying connected and for staying connected professionally the same? Some people like to dedicate specific social media platforms to certain aspects of their lives, while others let their personal and professional forums intermingle. For example, Twitter shines as a networking tool, and is an ideal place to present your professional self. Professional discourse of facebook however, may be interrupted by your mother posting baby pictures for #TBT.
If you are considering going the route of creating completely separate digital personae, it would be wise to first survey the landscape. What sort-of results come up? How common is your given name? Google yourself and find out. The uniqueness of your name can dictate the types of problems you may face. The last thing you want is for potential employers to confuse you with someone else, or worst yet, another person in the field. Changing your displayed facebook name has been a simple way to protect your personal identity from employer searches, and for people with popular names, using a middle name or alternate spelling as your professional identity may also be needed. This is a simple solution that anyone could use, and it also allows for the use of multiple accounts of the same social media platform. Having a “professional handle” is certifiably awesome and is a great way to set yourself apart.
Even if the jury is still out on the necessity of an online presence, the verdict is quite clear regarding the impact a negative online presence can have. Though what exactly is a negative online presence? Are there aspects of your personality or interests that you are apprehensive in disclosing to potential employers? As someone coming to the archival field from a 10 year career in the arts (see my post about self employment), I’ve been very deliberate in the structure of my professional networks. Right now, I have a multitude of Me 2.0’s: one for my lifelong friends and family, which also includes many of my colleagues from my old profession, one for networking in my new profession, and one online persona that attempts to connect my previous music and technology experience (including contacts) with my shiny new MLS degree and the opportunities that lie ahead.
Aside from reveling in the joy of organization and bringing out the cataloger in yourself, creating distinct online profiles is ultimately an exercise in caution. What information will employers consider when Googling your name? Will they value some experience over others? Will aspects of your personal life or previous career be treated as warning signs? The number social media options are sometimes overwhelming, but this can be helpful in the quest to keep all of these You 2.0’s in order. Which platforms have worked best for your professional branding efforts in the LIS field or elsewhere?